Among the many photographers who worked for the Fabbrica del Duomo, Antonio Paoletti had a very important role.
Paoletti was born in 1881 in Livorno. In 1908 he moved to Milan and opened a photography studio in via Pantano n.3. The photographer immediately established himself on the Milanese scene: as early as 1910, Luca Beltrami hired him to carry out a photographic campaign of the civic museum collections. During his career he collaborated with important companies, including Edison and AEM, and held positions at the Superintendence: for instance, he was responsiblefor the photographic documentation of the restoration of Santa Maria delle Grazie in 1937.
By studying the records and payment orders kept in the Archives of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, we can accurately reconstruct the work carried out by Paoletti for the Fabbrica, where he was active from 1916 until his death in June 1943.
During this period, Paoletti was the main photographer the Fabbrica relied on to document the ordinary and extraordinary work that was done on the Cathedral, including the construction of new pinnacles,the construction of the façade’s minor doors and the monumental restoration that affected the Cathedral from 1936 to 1939.
He also played a fundamental role in the establishment of the Photo Library of the Duomo. In fact, from the 1920s onwards, he began to reprint the photographic negatives that were at the Fabbrica and had been purchased and commissioned from the second half of the nineteenth century. He then proceeded toorganize the prints into albums, as shown in the annotation by Fabbrica Architect Adolfo Zacchi: "Paoletti the photographer took the photographs [...] using negatives owned by the Fabbrica, concerning details and studies of the Duomo. The material obtained must be used for the creation of photo albums for the reorganization of the photographic archive" (Mandate n.175 of 1920). At the same time, Paoletti reorganised the collection of negatives, as stated in the expense item of the invoice from 31/08/1937: "for labour, subdivision, listing and negative numbering - complete reorganisation of the photographic archive" (Mandate n.328 of 1937).
The story of Paoletti the photographer confirms once again the extraordinary value of the Archive of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo: in it, thanks to the interweaving of the numerous documentary testimonies preserved, it is possible to reconstruct in a precise way each segment of the centuries-old history of the Duomo that echoes many other infinite stories.
In the picture: Invoices by Antonio Paoletti dated 25/01/1916, 19/09/1938 and 09/06/1943.